In Summary
  • Any Jubilee deal on BBI will have to follow a truce between Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, who have been circling each other warily since capturing a second term.
  • When the President elevated Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to be in charge of Cabinet meetings, Dr Ruto’s supporters felt that the move was meant to cut down the DP

It is no secret that Deputy President William Ruto and his substantial support base have been suspicious of the President Uhuru Kenyatta-ODM leader Raila Odinga Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

DP Ruto’s team sees the initiative as a political union aimed at isolating Dr Ruto and sabotaging his presidential succession prospects.

In the first term of Jubilee leadership from 2013 and early part of the second term clinched in 2017, it was taken for granted that Dr Ruto would be in prime position to be the next occupant of State House.

Indeed, a popular refrain was that President Uhuru Kenyatta would serve his two terms of five years each and then hand over power to Dr Ruto for his own decade in power, but the handshake changed all that.

It deeply divided Jubilee into the Tangatanga Ruto faction and the Kieleweke grouping loyal to President Uhuru Kenyatta and supportive of the dalliance with his former arch-foe, Mr Raila Odinga.

While Dr Ruto might still be confident that he can clinch the Jubilee presidential ticket for 2022, President Kenyatta’s support can no longer be taken for granted.

JUBILEE POLLS

There is also the real threat that Jubilee could split. Party elections slated for next month could be the make or break moment.

Jubilee has since formation been run by handpicked officials loyal to President Kenyatta, but elections could turn things around if Dr Ruto, who seems to have the support of the majority of MPs, seizes control.

Whichever faction gains the upper hand will determine the party position on any pending legislation, including whatever resolutions may come out of the BBI.

Control is also important in regard to the party nomination structure for the next elections, which will determine who runs on the Jubilee ticket from member of county assembly to members of parliament, senator, governor and president come 2022.

If the party elections come to be a do-or-die contest that could fatally split the party or hand it over to Dr Ruto, chances are that the Jubilee bosses could indefinitely postpone the polls until such a time the Kenyatta forces feel confident they can stave-off a Ruto onslaught.

Dr Ruto often likes to say that former President Daniel Moi was the mentor he fashions his politics on.

NATIONWIDE TOURS

When he served as vice-president under Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the humble and unassuming Moi patiently braved mistreatment by powerful members of the then inner power cabal, eventually rising to the top seat.

One thing he had going for him was that President Kenyatta was more of an imperial monarch who spent his time on ''busy working holidays'' at the Coast or Nakuru State House, leaving an efficient State bureaucracy to run the government, and a VP free to traverse the country ''inspecting development projects'' and building his political alliances.

By the time Kenyatta died in 1978, Moi controlled the grassroots machinery of the then sole political party, Kanu.

DP Ruto’s Tangatanga tours in some ways replicate Moi’s countrywide tours, but with a big difference; in that in the latter's one-party State one could not launch an early presidential campaign or in any way show that he is planning to succeed his boss.

A multiparty system gives the DP the leeway to plot his own course, bolstered by the fact that he was elected with the president as part of a ticket and therefore cannot be sacked.

BBI CAMPAIGN

Shortly before Moi’s death, there was a lot of chatter about an alleged plot by Dr Ruto’s supporters to move an impeachment motion against President Kenyatta and one by the latter’s group against the DP.

A lot of the rancour had arisen out of rivalry witnessed during the BBI campaign rallies with Dr Ruto on one side and Mr Odinga on the other.

Moi’s demise and the mourning period halted all political activities, but the tempo is set to kick in with renewed intensity.

Mr Gideon Moi, who succeeded his father as the Kanu leader, had missed Mr Odinga’s group rallies, but will now be free to take his place on the BBI roadshows.

Moi’s death forced cancellation of a Ruto faction BBI rally in Nakuru and an Odinga group rally in Meru, where the host, Governor Kiraitu Murungi, had been touting the likely attendance of President Kenyatta.

The President joining Mr Odinga at the Meru rally with the younger Moi, alongside Nasa co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang'ula, would send a powerful signal of Dr Ruto’s isolation.

This is the strategy presently being broached, but President Kenyatta remains wary of openly associating with what could turn into an anti-Ruto rally.

THINGS FALL APART

Privately, he has told some of his key aides that he has no intention of attending any of the BBI rallies.

However, he remains firmly committed to BBI, at numerous fora talking of the need to end the cycles of electoral violence through a more inclusive leadership structure and an end to the winner-takes-all polls.

Any Jubilee deal on BBI will have to follow a truce between Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, who have been circling each other warily since capturing a second term.

The duo was elected in 2013 and, for much of their first term, openly engaged in public displays of affection.

It wasn’t until after re-election, however, that things started falling apart. Insiders tell of the first Parliamentary Group meeting following the 2017 elections.

President Kenyatta reportedly delivered a rambling address, in which he told the MPs that, as he would not be seeking re-election, he would not be beholden to them or anybody else.

He promised to drive the Jubilee agenda aggressively, warning to be ruthless with leaders who did not toe the line.

MATIANG'I'S ELEVATION

Nobody else spoke at the meeting which, instead of being a celebration victory, became a harangue.

President Kenyatta had virtually told the MPs that he did not need them but, just 36 hours later, came the seismic shock of his presidential election victory nullified by the courts.

He had to call another meeting to rally support for the repeat election. Once that was won, it did not take long for the president to embark on a trajectory that completely blindsided his party.

The DP, self-proclaimed ''Hustler'', ratcheted up his campaign against supposed '''dynasties'', which now were expanded from Gideon Moi to Kenyatta and Odinga.

The continuing ''Hustler Nation'' slogan reportedly angered President Kenyatta, who felt that his deputy was undermining him.

When the President elevated Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to be in charge of Cabinet meetings, Dr Ruto’s supporters felt that the move was meant to cut down the DP who, hitherto, had been playing a key role, monitoring development projects across all ministries.

PROJECT DELIVERY

Cabinet Secretaries who used to brief the DP would now be reporting to Dr Matiang’i.

The new structure, however, was inadvertently an admission of failure, particularly on delivery of Mr Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda legacy projects.

Previously, project delivery was based at State House under Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita, who now has an obscure role at Harambee House.